Thursday, November 17, 2011

Equality vs. Freedom?

I wrote this in response to a Jason Lewis commentary in last Sunday's Startribune. Since the letter wasn't printed, I'm publishing it here:

Besides being a possible act of plagiarism (see George Will's 2004 Washington Post column, "Freedom vs. Equality"), Jason Lewis' "Do You Want Equality or Freedom?" posits what might just be the most obnoxious straw man/false choice in American political discourse. Is it helpful to examine a nation founded on ideals of both equality and freedom, then build a fence between those two ideals and demand that we live on one side or the other? (Sounds a bit like intellectual eminent domain.) 

The real dividing line between our current conservatives and liberals is the idea of whether you see interrelatedness or individualism as the more dominant force. Liberals look at the internet, social media, pandemics, global supply chains, climate change and European economic contagion as evidence that, for both better and worse, our world is smaller and more interconnected than ever before. Conservatives hold to the narrative of a basically fair world in which self-made men and women make individual choices and rise to the top (while others fall to the bottom) because they deserve it.

A conservative says there is no shame in being a rich and powerful man. A liberal merely points out that other people helped form that man, and that to some degree, the well-being of those other people is also in his self-interest.

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